Michael Londra at the Celtic Cafe

Michael Londra at the Celtic Cafe

April's Featured Artist of the Month

Michael Londra has many fans in the Celtic Cafe community, based on his years with Riverdance -- now he can garner even more admirers, thanks to the availability of his brand-new, self-titled CD.

We were introduced to that incredibly beautiful voice in first the Lagan, then the Lee and then the Broadway (Shannon) companies of Riverdance. But what of the years before that?

In Ireland, Michael Londra’s talent as a theatrical performer is widely acknowledged, having performed as lead in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and roles like Pish Tush in “The Hot Mikado,” Charlie in “Brigadoon” and Joe in “Some Like It Hot” -- all major hits in Dublin. He performed the title role in the Irish premiere of "Martin Guerre" at the Irish National Concert Hall and in the famed Olympia theater. At age 30 he had given up a career as a therapist for people with learning disabilities and taken to the "wicked stage."

In 1997, he was chosen to play Bobby Kennedy by the acclaimed theater director/ choreographer Larry Fuller in the world premiere of "J.F.K.," a musical drama. On opening night, he was spotted by the powers-that-be at Riverdance who were looking for a lead male singer for the U.S. national tour. Soon he was performing at Radio City Music Hall, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and The Pantages in L.A.

It was during that tour that Michael was asked to perform as lead singer in the new production of the show on Broadway, performing new works by Bill Whelan with Tsidii LeLoka of ‘Lion King” fame and Michel Bell of “Showboat,” both Tony nominees.

He sang at “Broadway on Broadway” for 50,000 people in Times Square and nationally on NBC, performing with Betty Buckley and with Heather Headley at “First You Dream -- A Tribute to Christopher Reeve,” in the New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd St. in New York. Another highlight was performing the National Anthem to a sold-out audience at a Knicks-Pacers game in Madison Square Garden.

Since leaving the show last year, Michael has been writing and performing in Europe and Africa, touring with Irish singing stars Juliet Turner and Brian Kennedy. Over the coming months he will head to Ireland for a mini-tour and to promote his CD. He will sing at the launch of the new Artemis Fowl Book and his song "Artemis" might just make it to the soundtrack of the new Miramax movie version of the book.

One of Ireland’s great musical exports, Michael is lauded at home and abroad. Barrie Robinson, Irish ambassador to the U.S., refers to his music as "a unique and outstanding contribution to the Irish Arts." We couldn't agree more, after listening to his CD! Besides that crystalline voice, you can hear the musical contributions of the following amazing musicians:

Des Moore: Original guitarist for Firedance in Riverdance (and generally the best guitarist in Ireland!)

Declan Masterson: Piper of Moving Hearts and Riverdance (one of my idols in my youth)

Robbie Harris: Riverdance and best bodhran player in the world, without a doubt!

Steve Skinner: Keys (Grammy nominee, having played on albums for Bette Midler, Celine Dion, Jewel., etc.)

Ciaran O'Hare: Whistles (Chicago man, great musician and husband to Liz Knowles of Cherish the Ladies and Ensemble Gallilei, and he's also a great friend)

Chieli Minucci: Jazz Guitarist to the stars

Backing vocals: Sherry Steele, lead singer from Lagan show, Riverdance on Broadway singers plus vocalists from the Lion King on Broadway

Ivan Goff: Pipes and flute. Currently playing in Eileen Ivers band.

• • •

We asked Michael to share with the Celtic Cafe community some insight into the songs that make up this very special listening experience. Here are his comments about each of the tracks:

I wrote this when Eoin Colfer, author of "Artemis Fowl," the worldwide children's bestseller came to see me on Broadway. Miramax, who have optioned the movie to be made this year for a spring 2004 release, heard that we were in the same class all the way through school, so they arranged for the trip. We talked about both having had relative success in the U.S. and I was totally inspired by him and the character he created. Artemis is the "anti- Harry Potter" and can be a nasty piece of work. The song is kind of dark and sounds a bit spooky. Miramax have heard the song and hopefully it will make the movie. I sing it next month in Ireland at the launch of the 3rd book in the series which has sold millions so far.

Crown Of Gold
I love going home to spend time with my goddaughter and nephew. Sarah is a little actress and reminds me of a little sprite. I miss her a lot and hate not seeing her grow up, but when I get home I make up for it so we have a lot of fun.

Heart Of the Land
I get very mixed up about how I feel about Ireland: Proud, sad, guilt for leaving, anxious to return but most of all I have a sense of belonging and am aware of what has happened to Ireland over the years. I love where it is heading now and despite the problems it has faced, has generally overcome them. The harder the battle to get there, the sweeter it is when you arrive!

Star Of Cartagena
I was in southern Spain last year and was witness to a beautiful Andalucian evening. It reminded me of the beauty of someone I know who is very sick. I don't want to get too maudlin, but her strength and beauty is so inspiring to me.

Ground Beneath Her Feet
This is a BONO song with lyrics by Salman Rushdie. Few people know this song, but the lyrics are just amazing and it is the closest to an "edge" that I will ever get. It's like Daniel O'Donnell singing Alanis Morisette!

Do You Think Of Me
I live in Chicago and a lot of the images in the song are based on it. It is about imagining the end of a relationship. Essentially I am insecure, as every singer is, so I tend to get carrried away. My relationship is actually 100% healthy. I just love Chicago by the way.

Move On
I wrote this way back when I was on Broadway. It is a "pop-y" song but I wanted a bit of trad in it. I was lucky enough to have Declan Masterson, who I have been a fan of for my entire adult life. That day in the studio, I realised that I had become somewhat successful. To have Riverdance musicians play on your album is a privilege.

This is a story about a kid I know and love who had to deal with his parents breaking up. He actually came out of it all just fine, but at the time I wanted him to know I was "watching over." St. Christopher is a reference to the faith people put in the so-named saint. It always struck me as amazing that people would blindly trust a golden chain around their neck. It is heartening, I think, that people have that faith.

I had the chance to record this with the man who wrote it. John Capek has written for Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, etc., etc. So again, I was thrilled and a little disbelieving.

Lullaby for a Sleepless Soul
I heard this song through a friend of mine and then I got to meet the hot young writer who will be a big star one day. His name is Johnny Rodgers... watch out for him.

I do want to talk about how great my producer is. Steve Skinner is a Grammy nominee who has produced the soundtrack of RENT, "From A Distance" for Bette Midler, Celine Dion, Jewel, etc. etc. I still cannot believe that he wanted to work with me and I keep looking over my shoulder for the Candid Camera team!

Listen to sound samples of five of the tracks of this superb CD at Michael's website: www.michaellondra.com


Feature: Bernadette Price
Original Web Design: Alexander Servas

Michael Londra

Ski party with the Lagan

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